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When Should Singles Reveal Their Issues to Dating Partners?

Alisa Snell - Dating Coach - July 02, 2012

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Many singles worry about when to reveal their past sins, education level, family dysfunction, or financial problems. They want to be fair and honest with the people they date. They also donʼt want to waste their time to later discover their date has out-of-control issues. Their concerns are understandable, but how and when they reveal or ask about issues can make or break a new relationship. This process can be navigated in a respectful and honest manner if singles know what to do.

Numerous singles have an issue or insecurity in their life that is difficult to discuss. For some itʼs family issues, abuse experiences, health problems, depression, or anxiety. For others itʼs their financial problems, eating disorders, pornography struggles, or excessive debt. Even when the issue is less severe, like talking about past relationships or revealing education and career success (or failures), all issues evoke a fear of criticism or rejection.

As a dating coach I get many questions about how and when to bring up such issues. Here are my answers to the most common questions.

Should I share or ask about issues on a first date?
Revealing personal issues on a first date may prove disastrous. It is not that singles should hide their issues in shame. Itʼs simply that a relationship needs time to build a foundation. A new tree needs to grow roots strong enough to support its heavy branches. Otherwise it will fall.

By choosing the right time to share their issues, singles are not being dishonest or misleading. They are simply exercising good boundaries and self-respect while showing others that there are many interesting things to learn about them.

How can I prevent wasting my time when someone might have issues I canʼt live with?
Getting to know someone is a process that shouldn't be rushed, and going on a date doesn't entitle the other person to immediate access to their dateʼs personal experiences. Private information is something that is earned through time, respect, and trust. Furthermore, if dating becomes heavy and ceases to be fun (especially in the first six weeks), the other person often withdraws or loses interest.

In short, during the first six weeks of dating singles need to focus just on having fun and getting to know their dateʼs interests, hobbies, and life experiences. There can be no guarantee that their investment will end in a relationship, but thatʼs just the risk everyone has to take. And after all, learning how to have fun while working on communication skills is never a waste of time.

How do I respond when someone asks a question Iʼm not ready to answer yet?
Many women fear telling men about their financial, career, or educational success for fear of intimidating men who have less success than them. Likewise, men can fear revealing their wealth or career choices for fear of being exploited (for their wealth) or criticized and rejected (for their lack of wealth). Similarly, questions about a past marriage or children can be difficult to discuss with near strangers. 

When someone asks any uncomfortable question prior to a first date, singles can respond confidently and playfully by simply leaning forward, smiling, and playfully saying, “Thatʼs a very interesting story and one that is best shared over dinner.” They can then add another smile and a wink, which increases curiosity and interest.

During a first date, if someone asks a sensitive question, singles can respond by confidently saying, “I have nothing to hide and would love to talk with you about this. if we get more serious later, but at this stage in dating I like to just focus on having fun.” They can then change the subject to a lighter topic, which they are open to sharing. 

How can I prevent getting too attached in case they have big issues I canʼt accept?
It may seem that investing six weeks in a dating relationship is a risk. It would be if singles become immediately exclusive and allowed themselves to get too into someone too soon. Even in ideal situations most dating relationships donʼt last six weeks. Thus, it is best for singles to follow these steps to help them avoid becoming excessive attached in the early stages of dating.

1. Time and pace dating. Singles who only see someone two times or less a week are
less likely to develop early dependence.

2. Don't talk with more than three friends about the date. The more singles share
details about their date with others, the more they get attached to who they think their date is, instead of who their date really is (which can only be discovered in time).

3. When thinking about them redirect your attention to something else. Singles need to limit the amount of time they allow themselves to think about their date until they are closer to being exclusive and have asked more personal questions.

4. Keep flirting with, pursuing, and dating others. Singles need to remember that their date is not their only chance for happiness and dating others helps remind them of this. Furthermore, singles make better choices when they have more than one option.

When should I ask about their issues and reveal mine?
Itʼs important that singles have fun for the first six weeks of dating. If singles are still enjoying the relationship beyond six weeks then they need to start preparing for the possibility of becoming exclusive, which means they need to start asking more personal questions and sharing their issues. Singles shouldn't become exclusive until they can talk openly about many of their issues and they feel confident in how the other person responds.

This articles provides just a small sample of techniques on this topic. To listen to a one-hour audio on all the techniques I teach on when (and how) to reveal your issues, visit ItsYourTechnique.com. This audio will help you share your issues in a way that inspires the confidence, respect, and investment of your date.

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This article is sponsored by Alisa Goodwin Snell, a licensed marriage and family therapist and dating coach with 17 years of experience. Alisa is the author of the “It’s Not You—It’s Your Technique” dating system.

© LDS Living, 2012.
Comments 4 comments

weeangel8 said...

08:07 AM
on Jul 03, 2012

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I'm late on this, but have read the comments. I'm a 32 single gal with a solid education, but would have been happy to marry during college. It just didn't come my way. I'm usually asked why I'm not and I can only say that I haven't been asked. The men just give a curious look. I'm done dating, but not a lot either. The guys just don't ask, most don't even talk to women. Those who are my age and haven't been married don't want to commit yet, their careers and time to have fun is still the most important to them. I'm on the outside of all my close friends who are married, looking in at what I would love to experience and be a part of. It's a puzzle to most single women, we talk about it. I agree with the other comments, the younger women I've been around have expectations that are impossible for men to meet. They want the Princess Bride, but need to realize it's not that way. The article applies more to those single men who've never married in their 30's, there are tons of them.

oporterrockwell said...

05:40 PM
on Jul 10, 2012

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I remember talking to my now wife, then girlfriend/date after a little dating that I had three children, was divorced and had a bankruptcy.... It is hard to talk about stuff like that ... We are not the things we have done.... not even our mistakes. We have been married ten years and she has made my life wonderful. I have to leave, here she comes!

bridget said...

12:23 PM
on Oct 25, 2012

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I'm still hung up on the advice to "keep flirting." Who said you were supposed to flirt in the first place? Certainly not the Lord. Flirting can be reserved for your husband, thank you very much, and for him and him alone. Wow. If people followed this dating advice, they'd end up thinking of courtship as something that's devoid of feelings, which is not the case. And let me tell you, developing romantic feelings for anyone but your husband — before marriage as well as after — is not a recipe for success. As far as not getting your "stuff" out in the open, let me tell you, if a man ever tried to dodge one of my questions with “I have nothing to hide and would love to talk with you about this, if we get more serious later, but at this stage in dating I like to just focus on having fun,” I'd categorize him as dishonest. Instant good-bye! Who wants to date someone who is just out to have fun at your expense? I remember one blind date I went on. The guy was extremely interested in me. He was polite to me and very nice, but during the conversation, he mentioned that he had refused to marry a girl he had been seriously involved with because he "just wasn't ready." I knew immediately that he had slept with the girl, and nothing, absolutely nothing, he said afterward would persuade me to date him again. He did actually try very hard to get me to date him, stating that he really liked me, but I refused. What was the point of dating someone who would treat another daughter of God like that? I would certainly not want to lead him on by pretending that we could have a romantic relationship of any kind. As for being divorced, if you hide that, prepare to be rejected by any female who's not a complete idiot. One of the first men I dated was someone who delayed informing me he was divorced, so he completely wasted his time pursuing me, as I could have told him in the beginning there could be nothing between us. (My advice to men who are divorced — go back to your first wife. And if you can't, then find someone who is also divorced and in your same boat. Don't go after someone who has a chance to be someone's first and only wife.) As far as dating is concerned, it is a cultural evil, and Mormons have no business pretending that the Lord isn't against the immoral practices of our culture so that they can follow after them. Do not kiss, do not hold hands, do not become attached. Reserve that for your spouse and your spouse alone. We'd see a lot fewer divorces if people did away with the dating practices commonly engaged in today.

janai said...

12:09 PM
on Oct 28, 2012

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I thought this was a good article. I know I am commenting super late, but I couldn't resist. I am an 18 year old college student at a predominantly LDS school. I met my boyfriend a week after he got off his mission last June, and we became official six weeks ago. We are able to talk about anything together, and for that, I am grateful. But I wanted to respond to the post by "bridget". Bridget: First of all, we cannot get the attention of guys without flirting. Maybe you are just a little confused as to what flirting actually is... it can be as simple as a smile, talking to someone, or joking around. Nothing else. Also, when you decide to date someone, you obviously have romantic feelings for them. How are you supposed to know if they will end up being your spouse? You don't. It is okay to have romantic feelings for someone before marriage... it's not like you are breaking the law of chastity by having romantic feelings.It is also wise to not tell your date your problems as soon as you meet them. After they know you better, they will better be able to deal with those issues. That is the reason for this bit of advice. There are many amazing divorced people- there marriage just didn't work out. I say that if they find love in someone who has never been married, let them get married. Who are we to judge who can be married and who can't? And as far as the no kissing/ no holding hands/ no becoming attached part. PLEASE! I just want to point out that physical prgression is a natural part of any realtionship, just as emotional intamacy is. You can't have one without the other. If you want to become closer emotionally by sharing personal things, it is just natural for physical progression(such as hugging, holding hands, and kissing) to happen. These are my thoughts on the subject. I don't think we are practicing bad dating habits by not sharing things with our dating partner(s). I expect to be happily married in the temple. I am doing just fine by not following the above advice.
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